Tag: wine

It Takes A Village to Raise This Expat

Some of you remember PigPen in the Charlie Brown cartoons who always had a cloud of dust following him. Well, the Barefoot Blogger has a little cloud that has “trouble” written on it that seems to hang over me.

main-pigpenMy friend, Geoffrey, used to be the one who always came to my rescue. Since his phone now switches straight over to voicemail when I call, my safety net has expanded a bit. For example, remember Christian?  The friend who saved from sleeping on the curb when I didn’t have my keys when I returned to Uzes in June? (Click here if you’d like to read the post.) Since Christian and the key episode, I’ve stayed pretty much out of trouble. Until last week.

This time it was a real doosey. 

It was Thursday. I’d spent the morning picking grapes at a vineyard near Castillon-du-Gard for the small winery, La Gramière.

After a most-delicious “vendange” luncheon — and perhaps too much La Gramière rosé wine — I headed for home, stopping first to buy gas for the car, “Lucy.”

When I parked “Lucy” in front of the pump the nice lady who owns the station came out to speak with me. Because of my bad French we awkwardly passed pleasantries back and forth as I fumbled to put the fuel nozzle into Lucy’s tank. My concentration was on putting together a few coherent statements in French.

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The next day, Lucy and I set out for the vineyard to help again with the grape picking.  When we left the underground garage in Uzes, Lucy started puttering. She has always run like a top so I ignored her “hiccups.”  Until we were down the road. A flash of heat came over me.

desperate-vintage-woman-screaming-illustration-young-retro-stile-girl-emotion-fear-46757714“OMG! Did I fill Lucy’s diesel tank with petrol?”

All the warning voices came back to me that I had heard when I bought Lucy: “Don’t put petrol in Lucy’s diesel engine. It’ll be a catastrophe!”

“A catastrophe?” I said to myself, “ahh… Lucy’s just got something stuck in her pipes.”  Then I hit the gas pedal so Lucy could blow whatever was in there, out of there.

Speeding out of town Lucy responded well, but then she choked and slowed down. I kept on pushing her, certain the choking sounds would go away. We reached the meeting place of the grape pickers at Castillon-du-Gard, then panic set in. “It’s Friday!” I shrieked in my head. “If Lucy’s in real trouble, we’ll be stuck!”

“Got to get back to Uzes right now,” I told Amy, apologizing for dropping out of the work crew.

“Good luck!” she said.

Back on the road I picked up the phone and called Geoffrey. Twice. The calls went directly to voicemail.

Lucy was really hurting now. As we were chugging along we passed the turnoff to a small village I’d visited before.

“Paschal!” I shouted to myself.

Pachal is a friend of Geoffrey’s who designs swimming pools … and … he’s a master mechanic!

“Bonjour? This is Deborah,” I said to his wife who answered the phone.  “You won’t believe what I’ve done,” I exclaimed. Going over the gas saga and recalling that I had used the “green” pump to fill Lucy’s tank, I waited on the side of the road with Lucy to hear back from Paschal.

“The green pump is not diesel,” Paschal’s wife said, calling back for her husband. “Paschal says drive it over here very slowly and he’ll look at it when he gets home.”

“Drive slowly!” I laughed, “I’ve been speeding Lucy around for the last hour!”

What a car!

Lucy coughed her way to Paschal’s house where she took her last breath. I left her for a diagnosis and, hopefully, a cure.

“It may take several days to fix the problem,” said Paschal’s wife when she called the next day. “You know this isn’t easy. You ran petrol through the whole system.”

images-7“Say no more …” I had visions of Lucy being hauled off to the trash dump.

Sunday morning I received a call that Paschal would meet me at a cafe in Uzes to hand over Lucy’s key. She was OK! And the cost for her repair was very reasonable …. including a full tank of DIESEL!  Yeah Paschal!!!

Now I don’t have to worry about putting petrol in Lucy’s diesel engine anymore.

I’ve already done that! 

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36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence

If the Barefoot Blogger didn’t live so close to Provence, I’d stress about where to go and what to see if I had only 36 hours to visit.

Cousin Judy from Arizona spent two weeks with me this summer giving me a chance to figure out some new road trips from Uzes. Touring Provence was high on our priority list. When I got down to planning, 36 hours — spending two nights on the road — would give us time to enjoy each stop. Digging deeper into the plan, the trip began to take on a theme: “36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence: “wine” in the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, and “roses” at La Bastide “Rose”, home and boutique hotel of Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger.

Hope you enjoy following our trip!

Itinerary

Day One 

Morning tour of Avignon

Lunch and tour Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Two 

Morning touring St. Paul de Mausolee and the “trail of Van Gogh”

Lunch and shopping Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Late afternoon Carrières de Lumières and wine tasting in Les Baux de Provence

Dinner and overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Three

 L’Isle sur la Sorgue Sunday Antique Market

Drive back to Uzes

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Day One 

Itinerary: Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Thor

To get anywhere from Uzes, you almost always have to go through Avignon or Nimes. For this jaunt into Provence, Avignon was the direction to take. Plus, it is a city I wanted Judy to see, even if only briefly.

Our travel plan for the first day was to visit Avignon in the morning then to have a late lunch in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We would wander through Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the town famous for wines, stop for a few tastings (degustions) and end up at La Bastide Rose where we were staying for two nights.

Avignon – Morning 

IMG_4073An early morning wakeup in Uzes got us to Avignon in time for our second cup of coffee. Since I had taken the tour of the Pope’s Palace on an earlier visit, we opted to stroll around the main tourist area, then take a mini-train to view the rest of the historic landmarks. The timing was perfect for us to get to the second stop of the day, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For a tour of the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) add another 1 1/2 to 2 hours to your morning in Avignon.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape –  Lunchtime 

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Just over 30 minutes up the road from Avignon, the wine district of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was waiting for us. In English the name of the town and region means “Pope’s new chateau.” The once glorious chateau in the village, which was the summer home of Pope John XXII, the second of the popes who resided in Avignon, is now in ruins.

While part of our mission in Chateauneuf-du-Pape was to taste wine, we also wanted to see Chateau Des Fines Roches and have lunch on the terrace of the elegant hillside resort.  I wish I could say we enjoyed the meal as much as the scenery, but the food and service were disappointing. Perhaps it was a bad day for the chef and staff because I’d seen rather good reviews by others who have been there to stay and to dine. You should go there anyway… even if it’s for a cocktail. The view is amazing and the poolside dining spot is elegant, indeed.

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Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Afternoon Wine Tasting

Chateau Cabrieres

Chateau Cabrieres

After lunch it was on to wine tasting.  A little research reading online wine magazines definitely helped identify some of the world famous domaines to seek out.  If we could hit just one of the well-known places for “degustion” (a wine tasting), we would be happy.

The first place we stopped was Chateau Cabrieres.  The wines we tasted were very typical of the Côtes du Rhône region, filled with flavors of figs, cherries and berries. Quite nice.

IMG_4183Our second stop was at one of the domaines on our list — Paul Avil’s Clos des Pape. The centuries old domaine consistently ranked high in wine publications and, for example, they were Wine Spectator’s 2012 Top 100.  The tasting room was unassuming and the host was very friendly and helpful. Needless to say, the wine was superb!

Thor – La Bastide Rose  – Overnight

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Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger

A friend told me about La Bastide Rose, a boutique hotel located centrally in the area of Provence we were planning to visit. The bastide is owned by Poppy Salinger-Le-Cesne, wife of the late Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John Kennedy. My friend also told me there was a museum on the property, filled with memorabilia from Salinger’s days in the White House.  Since I was a huge fan of the Kennedys and a journalist myself, I could think of nothing better than to visit Salinger’s home to learn about his life and career. Perhaps I would learn some secrets about the days of “Camelot.” Cousin Judy agreed that a stay at La Bastide Rose would be the crown jewel in our tour of Provence.

Pierre Salinger lived at La Bastide Rose with his family the last four years of his life. The private property, which is less than an hour from Avignon, is hidden away among groves of apple trees and acres of vineyards. The seventeenth century home and adjoining structure, converted from a paper mill,  is along a section of the Sorgue River.  At one time the property was a production facility for Italian marble objects.

The comfortably elegant estate includes an outdoor garden with massive contemporary sculptures and art pieces. Beside the garden is the river and a park-like island that is part of the property. Hammocks, swings, benches and sun chairs are arranged throughout the island where visitors can relax and hide out. The peaceful ambiance is complete with a waterfall that sends rippling sounds throughout the place.

Our first night at the bastide we enjoyed a light meal of tapas, served to us as we sat on the terrace. Then it was early to bed. Day two was going to be very busy.

Day Two

Itinerary: Saint- Remy,  Le Baux de Provence, La Bastide Rose.

Even though I had been to Saint-Remy, I was anxious to see it again. My last trip was in the springtime and I knew the surroundings would look much different in the summer. Of course, who can resist shopping and lunch in the beautiful town of Saint-Remy? In Les Baux de Provence we were headed straight to see the famous light show (Carrières de Lumières). A wine tasting at Cave Vignoble Sainte Berthe was conveniently nearby. Next, dinner and overnight at La Bastide Rose.

 St. Paul de Mausolee in Saint-Remy -Morning tour

St. Paul de Mausolee is the hospital-asylum where Van Gogh self-committed himself just prior to his death. The well-maintained site is faithfully preserved to remind visitors of the time when Van Gogh was a patient there. From the bedroom where Van Gogh’s wheelchair and desk sat, to the courtyard below, everything was just as he would have left them. A new addition to St. Paul since my last visit is the kitchen, restored to perfection.  

 IMG_4224Saint-Rémy – Afternoon lunch and shopping

The morning market in Saint-Remy was coming to a close when we arrived, nevertheless, there were plenty of shops open and ready to serve up everything Provencal.  From olive oil to configures and calissons — a new sort of candy to me that’s famous in Provence. Cans of sardines, Camargue rice — both red and black — and flavored salts were my finds of the day.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence- Late afternoon

IMG_4302Not too far down the road from Saint-Remy is Les Baux de Provence. The village that sits atop a hill in the southern part of the Alpilles mountain range is a sight to see. During the summer the hilltop village is packed with tourists, so we opted to skip the steep climb and visit only the Carrières de Lumières. Neither of us was prepared for the experience. First of all, the cave was mammoth. Second, the presentation of art and music was mind-blowing. Hundreds of tourists filled the aisles between the illuminated walls of the cave, yet it seemed as if we were the only ones there. Visitors sat around the perimeter of the huge space just so they could take it all in. 

Mas-sainte-berthe

Mas-sainte-berthe

Coming out from the light show we were happy to run into Mas Sainte Berthe , a winery on our way out of Les Baux. Yes, more wine!  Some of my favorite tastings of the trip.

Bastide Rose in Thor -Dinner and overnight

Discovering that Bastide Rose had a fine restaurant onsite was an added reason for staying for two nights. The mastermind of the kitchen is Poppy’s son, Emmanuel de Menthon.

La Bastide Rose for dinner

Emmanuel

Along with his son, who serves as wine host and waiter, Emmanuel and his chef create imaginative dishes from local and home-grown products. Guests appear at La Bastide Rose from far and near to enjoy a meal and the beautiful surroundings.

Day Three

Itinerary: L’Isle sur la Sorgue and return to Uzes

My Aunt Rose was one of the reasons I grew to love collecting things, so I knew her daughter Judy would love L’Isle sur la Sorgue. The small town has a Sunday antique market that is well-known in this part of France. There is also a Sunday “everything” market, similar to Saturday Market in Uzes. It was a perfect last stop for our tour —  and only a few kilometers from the bastide. After our “goodbye” to Poppy, we set out to see what we could find.

In the tiny town lined with canals and shopping stalls, we walked through throngs of people and stopped only for a late lunch at one of the busy cafes. With full stomachs and happy hearts we were ready to head back to Uzes, ending our 36-hour tour of Provence.  We had “been there, done that” … and had a ball along the way!

For more information about places we visited, check out these blog posts.

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

On Van Gogh’s Trail

A Sunday in Provence: L’isle Sur la Sorgue

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A Day at the Beach in Sete: That’s Life!

A day at the beach in Sete is one of my favorite things to do during the summer in France. Read on and you’ll know why.

There’s something about the air, the sand, the attitude of the people around you at the beach that’s fun and carefree. I’ve felt that way since I was a teenager spending days on the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now, instead of baking in the sun, drenched in baby oil and drinking beer, the Barefoot Blogger sits under an umbrella on the Mediterranean drinking mojitos. Spoiled. You betcha!

If you get a chance to come to the south of France and you think the Rivera is the only place by the sea to go, try Sete

beach in Sete

Sitting on the Mediterranean outside Sete, France

 

 

Look at that sky! Look at the canal!  Small boats are standing by to take people out to sea, or just around the corner.

 

 

beach in Sete

 

A Day at the Beach in Sete

One of my favorite reasons to go to Sete is to visit with friends like Nancy McGee of the travel company Absolutely Southern France. She is the “Pearl Mesta” of the 21st century. If there’s anything going on in Sete, Nancy knows about it. Plus she has the experience as a destination planner to make an ordinary day a special event. Below she is telling my guest and her daughter, McKenna, about a special rose wine from Languedoc. This one, aside from it’s crisp, fruity taste, is topped with a glass stopper — an ingenious marketing ploy for selling wine to women. The bottles of wine are available with stoppers of various colors. So women like me want to collect them. The pink, green, yellow or clear “corks” can be used to top other wine bottles as well. Clever!

 

beach in Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Glass wine stoppers come in a variety of colors for collectors

 

Even though the temperatures were in the high 90’s, we were happy as “clams” on our soft-cushioned lounges, under beach umbrellas at the l’ACD club. We were treated like queens. Handsome young waiters and attendants were on call for beverages, snacks, or for simply adjusting our chairs when the sun shifted.

 

beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

If being pampered on the beach isn’t enough, there’s a restaurant a stone’s throw away with the most delicious varieties of seafood you can imagine. The tuna, however, was our favorite choice of the day. Sete is known for its bluefin tuna.

 

beach in Sete

Tuna tartare at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Sesame bluefin tuna at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

Nancy, aside from her tour business, is an expert in French etiquette. This day we had a lesson on the proper way to filet a fish at the table. According to Nancy, you run a knife along both sides of the skeleton bone on the top; then along each edge. Simply lift the fileted fish off the bones. When done with this side, turn the fish over and repeat. How easy is that!

 

beach in Sete

 

Now that the day at the beach in Sete is over, it’s time to take the train to Carcassone. Never mind that we missed the train we booked! Friendly personnel on SNCF helped us “get on track” to our next destination. To read about our holiday in Carcassonne, click here.

 

beach in Sete

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

 

To book the South of France Memories You Promised Yourself women’s tour with Absolutely Southern , click here

 

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7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

It’s hard to say when the Barefoot Blogger will ever get her fill of visiting the Camargue.

The preserved area south of Arles,  the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes and grain.

The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all feed only on natural feed and grasses. Salt mines that create pink-tinted lagoons and canals produce some of the world’s finest salts.  Shrimp that thrive on the algae in the pinkish waterways feed flamingoes that gather in ponds and pools alongside the fields and roads. The shrimp diet colors the birds’ feathers pink.  It’s all a grand circle of life.

The Camargue Safari

The most recent jaunt to the Camargue was with my guests from the States, including 10-year-old McKenna. While her mother and I thought a safari would be a huge thrill for McKenna, we all totally enjoyed the 4-hour tour by jeep. It wasn’t just because of our adorable and multi-lingual guide, we learned there are at least 7 reasons this place is so amazing … and so popular for tourists. 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #1: The Camarguais horses

 

visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #2: The Camargue bulls

visiting the camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Camargues Bulls

 

Reason #3: Flamingos

visiting the camargue

Flamingos in the Camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Flamingo

 

Reason #4: Salt mines

visiting the camargue

Salt processed in the Camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Balin Salt brand from the Camargue is exported worldwide

 

Reason #5: Rice

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Rice fields in the Camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #6: Wine

visiting the camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #7: The culture

visiting the camargue

A home of a Gardian, or “rancher”

 

 

visiting the camargue

The Camargue cross is a symbol of “faith, hope and charity” to dwellers of the region

 

For more about the Camargues, please see these earlier posts:

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

For your own Camargue Safari, contact Nancy McGee at southernfranceluxury.com

 

visiting the camargue

 

Uzes at Christmas: Revisited

Uzes at Christmas: Revisited
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As much as I like to travel to new places and visit again with family I love, I miss my new home in France over the holidays.

Revisit these memorable moments with me from Christmas in the beautiful village of Uzes, France.

 

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Just one of the narrow streets filled with shops and cafes that are decorated to celebrate Christmas in the beautiful village of Uzes, France.

 

Bobo French fashions at Atelier des Ours are extra-special at Christmas

Bobo French fashions at Atelier des Ours are extra-special at Christmas

 

Love the gifts of Provence from this local shop

Love the gifts of Provence from this local shop

 

Macaroons at Christmas Market Uzes. Need I say more?!

Macaroons at Christmas Market Uzes. Need I say more?!

 

Musicians caroling on the sidewalks help create a oldtime holiday mood

Musicians caroling on the sidewalks help create a old time holiday mood

 

The neighborhood wine store and flower shop is decked for all holiday occasions

The neighborhood wine store and flower shop is decked for all holiday occasions

 

Table toppers and other festive decorations fill store windows at Atzana

Table toppers and other festive decorations fill store windows at Atzana

 

Gifts for the season -- galore!

Gifts for the season — galore!

 

Potter at San Quentin La Poterie during Holiday Exhibit

Potter at San Quentin La Poterie during Holiday Exhibit

 

Favorite dress shops are decked with their finest

Favorite dress shops are decked with their finest

 

At wine tastings there's a party going on!

At wine tastings there’s a party going on!

 

Chestnuts roasting at holiday markets

Chestnuts roasting at holiday markets

 

All wait for the Holiday Parade

All wait for the Holiday Parade

 

Saint Nicolas makes his appearance wishing all a 'Joyeux Noël'

Saint Nicolas makes his appearance wishing all a ‘Joyeux Noël’

 

‘Joyeux Noël’ to my friends in France!

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It’s Time to Make the Wine

It’s time to make the wine
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Remember the TV ad for Dunkin’ Donuts: “It’s time to make the donuts!”  It’s time to make wine in France. Unusually cool weather over the summer months caused a late grape harvest. (“La vendange”)

Vendange in Castillion-du-Gard

Vendange in Castillion-du-Gard

It was almost the last harvest of grapes for the season before I had a chance to get to a vineyard for picture-taking. As you may recall, the day I was to head up north with Geoffrey, the battery in my car gave out. (See “One Step Forward”)

As good fate would have it, I was invited to a “vendange”– grape harvest — in a vineyard near Uzes. My friend from the States was here, so it was a chance to do something fun and totally unexpected during her visit.

What to wear?

After being invited to spend the day in a vineyard., “what do you wear to a vendange” was my first thought, shared by friend Pat,

Definitely wear a hat,” we decided. Then put on something that “looks cute,” of course.

For me, I had a closet full of shirts that would do; but for Pat, she had only “precious” outfits that grape stains and mud would ruin.

With less than 24 hours to shop, we ran to a “H&M-type” store in Uzes and started our search. “Maybe something blue,” said Pat, “so it won’t show grape stains.” A blue denim shirt was there, waiting for her on the rack. “If it gets stained, “she rationalized, “I’ll just say ‘oh, that? it’s from picking grapes in France.'”  

Pat dressed in her "grape-picking in France" outfit.

Pat dressed in her “grape-picking in France” outfit.

 

The vineyard

La Gramière is a winery owned by a young American couple who started the business in 2005. They produce Grenache-based wines made from organically grown, hand-picked grapes.The vineyard is just outside Castillon-du-Gard, a tiny village near Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct.

For directionally challenged Pat and me, the vineyard for “La Gramière” winery would have been impossible to find. Thankfully a friend offered to meet us at the village square in Castillon-du-Gard . The unpaved, “backwoods” route proved it was a good thing we didn’t have to find our own way.

Arriving at the spot where we met Amy and Matt and the rest of the “pickers.” we discovered the vineyard for La Gramière is made up of several small fields scattered among a very large area of vines. The “vineyard sharing” concept is popular in France.

Amy and Mark Kling of La Gramière

Amy and Matt Kling of La Gramière

Other than Amy and Matt, there are no paid employees at the winery. They have discovered that there are plenty of volunteers who are more than happy to help harvest the crop.

The vendange

To harvest grapes you have to start early in the morning. The temperature should not be too hot . The day Pat and I volunteered, the weather was sunny and cool.

When we reached the vineyard, everyone had on their work gloves. Clippers and buckets were in their hands. Pat and I put on borrowed garden gloves and we grabbed the rest of the gear.

After brief instructions: “go two by two and pick one vine at a time,” Pat and I split up. We’d spent enough time together! Besides, there were others there we wanted to get to know.A delightful new friend from Canada and I teamed up. She is an artist and lives in Vers-Pont du Gard. We became instant buddies.

 Amy and Matt have made the vendange routine somewhat of a game.

“Who can finish first?” Taking one long row of vines at a time, we worked in three or four pairs interspersed down the row. We’d “jump over” the slower pickers. Then we’d move onto another row. It kept chit-chat with your partner down to a minimum since you had the same goal.

La Gramière vineyard

La Gramière vineyard

 

 

When grapes are ready to harvest they are bursting with juice. That means you must handle the bunch gently when you cut it off the vine.

 

Ripe grapes ready for picking

Ripe grapes ready for picking

A simple garden clipper does the trick. 

Garden clippers easily remove the cluster of grapes from the vine.

Garden clippers easily remove the cluster of grapes from the vine.

 

“Only pick the best grapes,” we were told.  Any clusters that had rotten grapes or grapes that were too green or yellow should be discarded. Amy and Matt’s philosophy is “there are plenty of grape.” They want only the “pick of the crop” for La Gramière wines.

Grape picking at La Gramière

Grape picking at La Gramière

 

I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I have a new appreciation for “bio” or organic wines.

Most consumer wines today are produced by companies that pick grapes with machines. I’ve seen the big machinery in the fields and observed the vines picked clean.

 

Bucket brimming with grapes ready to be sorted by hand

Bucket brimming with grapes ready to be sorted by hand

After filling our buckets, we dumped the grapes into small crates that were strategically placed among the rows of vines. Matt and helper rode through the vineyard and loaded each crate onto the back of a tractor.

Tractor filled with harvested grapes

Tractor filled with harvested grapes

 

Time for a break!

Cake and coffee brought to the vineyard by Amy’s mom, Cindy, is devoured by hungry workers

 

Mid-morning break

A couple of hours after bending over the vines and carrying our buckets to the crates for pick up, it was time for a break. The hungry crew quickly devoured the bundt cake that Amy’s mom, Cindy, baked for the occasion.

During this time of year, Amy’s mom and dad come to France from their home in Colorado to help with the harvest. A few years ago they bought a place in the village of Vers-Pont du Gard. so they could be nearby. Apparently it didn’t take much persuading to convince them to help with the business, although I will say, it’s hard work.

 

Then it’s back to the vineyard

There's a whole field of grapes. Who'll miss a few?

There’s a whole field of grapes. Who’ll miss a few?

Pat "pretending" to be busy clipping grapes

Pat “pretending” to be busy clipping grapes

Before too long,  Cindy shows up with her wagon and it’s quickly emptied with the next treat of the day. 

The lunch wagon has arrived

The lunch wagon has arrived

 

La vendange lunch

After our chores, those of us who finished early helped bring folding chairs to the table that was set up near the edge of one of the vineyards. All the accoutrements for the outdoor feast were there, including a tablecloth, which we weighed down with rocks found alongside the field. A breeze had kicked up a bit and blew slightly over the field, just enough to blow away an untethered cloth.  Soon it was time to eat!

Green salad loaded with tomatoes picked from the garden that morning; lasagna Provence-style; apricot crumble; and just enough wine to insure we could all find our way home safely.

Finishing touches are made on a fresh green salad with tomatoes straight from the garden

One of the helpers adds the finishing touches to the  green salad, piled with tomatoes  from her garden

 

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Salad with garden tomatoes

 

Lasagna Provence-style

Lasagna Provence-style

 

Apricot crumble

Apricot crumble

 

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Now I know why Amy and Matt never have to look far to find helpers for their harvest. Mom’s a fabulous “chef,” plus, the company and atmosphere are hard to beat.

After a leisurely lunch,  those of us on the work crew packed up and went home. For Amy and Matt, their long day of sorting grapes by hand was just beginning.

To read more about Amy and Matt and the La Gramière wines, click here to visit their blog. 

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Give Thanks for New Friends Who Help Color Your World

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Thanksgiving has new meaning to me this year.  It’s not a holiday in France. Never mind,  I’m making it my personal day to give thanks to all the new people who have come into my world this year.

November road scene, Uzes

November road scene, Uzes

I drove out into the countryside near Uzes yesterday to take pictures of the Autumn views. As spectacular as it is, I couldn’t help comparing the colors and scenery of France with my Carolina home. Rather than getting all mope-y eyed and sad that I won’t be spending the holiday with my family and friends in the US, I thought about my new friends.

How lucky I am to have them in my life!

Pictured in this photo gallery are just a few of the many, many people I have “run into” in 2013. You’ve read about them in the posts of Barefoot Blogger. Some are destined to be lifelong friends. Others will be acquaintances.  Some are “people in the crowd” who allowed me to take their photograph. And others didn’t know they were in the sights of my lens.

Geoffrey is shown more than once. See if you can pick him out. His flamboyant style makes it hard to appreciate only one of his “many faces”. 

Stay tuned … Thanksgiving in France … Live turkey … Tomorrow I will be celebrating an American-style holiday dinner with my new friends in France. It will be a Thanksgiving to remember, for sure. Yet it will bring back memories of all those Thanksgivings in the past.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Beaujolais Nouveau Day, traditionally on the third Thursday of November, is a celebration of the end of the harvest in the Beaujolais region of France. In Uzes, the event is another good excuse to meet with friends in bars.

I wish I had the imagination to make up this crazy life I’m living in France. The best I can do is to write it down. The day and events of Beaujolais Nouveau are no exceptions.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day: A quiet start

The most exciting thing I had scheduled for Beaujolais Nouveau day was to finish up a blog entry, then to drift down to a wine store at some time to sample the first crop of Beaujolais. The wine store is a new find since it’s quite well hidden. It is in a “cave” at the back of a florist shop. If I could read the signs, I would have known about it before now. Nevertheless, I literally ran across the “Cave” on Wednesday and I stopped in to check it out.

Just by accident I asked the shop owner about Beaujolais Nouveau. He informed me that my query was quite timely. He was “unveiling” his Beaujolais Nouveau the next day, Thursday, November 21. Showing my total ignorance about wine,  I asked if I could taste the new wine right then. I was already at the shop. Politely he informed me that French law forbids anyone to open a bottle before the prescribed date. He invited me to return the next day for a sampling.

On Thursday, November 21, when I was getting into writing the blog about my first house guest, and later going to the wine shop, Geoffrey called. “Looking for adventure,” he said.

I could see a smile on his face through his voice on the phone. “What’s up” I responded. “I’m really busy today, and I don’t want to spend any money.”

Apparently my reply wasn’t taken as a “no.” It showed I had a spark of interest. He had me on the hook. “Won’t cost you a dime,” he promised. “Just thought you might like to ride down the road to this little town for lunch,” he said cheerily. “Real French country food,” he added. You’ll love it.”

I agreed to meet him in 15 minutes in front of my building.

Beaujolais Nouveau DayBeaujolais Day Begins: Blauzac

Somehow I had forgotten that  I have “possession” of Mustang Sally. So Geoffrey has no car. That meant he was picking me up in the blue van. Fair enough. As promised, Geoffrey and the blue van showed up at the downstairs entrance to my apartment building, I squeezed into the front seat of the car that has no dashboard and no upholstery; I strapped myself in; and we headed to Blauzac, a tiny village about 20 minutes from Uzes.

The views along the road were of vineyards and ancient stone farm houses. The ride itself was already enough of an excuse to have put my other plans for the day aside. Arriving in Blauzac, I was immediately impressed with its raw beauty. This little town, tucked in the middle of nowhere, among wine fields, reminded me again that I am truly in France.

 Lunch with the boys

Beaujolais Nouveau DayThe cafe Geoffrey talked about all the way to Blauzak was exactly as I imagined. The small, quaint, restaurant and bar was filled with men and smoke. Introductions to “Deborah” were accompanied with the offer of a drink and a toast. Only one person in the cafe could, or would, speak English — aside from me and Geoffrey. Soon the three of us started talking, even though there were many interruptions for translations.

We mostly talked about why so many French people smoke. I asked why rolling cigarettes is so popular. I was told that rolling cigarettes is not only cheaper than buying them by the pack, it’s also better for your health. Here’s the rationale: 1) rolling cigarettes means that you know what’s inside the wrapper. Cigarettes in packs are full of “garbage”;  2) rolled cigarettes have less tar and nicotine; and, most convincing to the roller fans, 3) you smoke fewer cigarettes because you’re pre-occupied during the few minutes it takes to roll them.

Where’s the beef?  Soon it was 2pm and no sign of food… except for sightings of steaming hot onion soup the owner of the cafe served to lunch patrons who had shown up. I reminded Geoffrey why we had come this distance at lunch time. Almost immediately a table was set for Geoffrey, me, and our three new friends. Then out from the kitchen came our baskets of crusty bread, bowls of onion soup with croutons swimming on top, complete with melted cheese. After devouring the delicious soup, the “plat” (main course) was served. A choice of gardiane de taureau (bull stew) or saute de veau aux les olives, les champignons (veal stew with olives and mushrooms) — both resting over rice. All served from this modest kitchen by our gracious host and chef.

Good thing I’m retired and have nothing really important to do. But I do wonder how so many people can spend so much time in bars and cafes. By the time we left Blauzac, there was evidence that no one, with the exception of the bar owner and staff, planned to do any work that day

Beaujolais Nouveau Bar Hopping

I was bushed from all that eating and from struggling to participate in part English/mostly French conversations. My sweet little apartment and a nap were calling. The idea of going to the wine shop to try the Beaujolais nouveau was going on the back burner for next year. Geoffrey and I said our farewells and I thought that was that. Not so. Within 30 minutes my phone was ringing. Geoffrey. “I’m coming to pick you up to taste the new wines,” he said. “You can’t miss this.”

“Good grief,” I said to myself. Then realizing I’d hate to miss this blog opportunity, I said to Geoffrey, “OK, I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #1

It was after 7pm when we reached the wine “cave” I had hoped to visit. It was closed. We took off down the street to another wine shop where there was definitely something going on. It was a party… not a big party …  a gathering of the shop owner’s friends. We were invited to join the group and I was handed my first glass of the new wine. The small celebration included bottles of wine, baguettes of bread, a few types of cheese, and thin slices of French cured ham, all spread casually over the store counters near the checkout. According to Geoffrey, the wine connoisseurs were discussing the quality of the new wine — or lack, thereof. they said there was the presence of an artichoke flavor, not fruit, in the wine. They could have been joiking. I miss so much not understanding the French language.

To me, the taste of the new wine was very watery. Not uncommon for a freshly bottled Beaujolais, I was told. It was certainly drinkable and we could have stayed on and on. Another bar adventure was calling.

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #2

The second stop for Beaujolais Nouveau tasting was at a cafe/bar I’ve walked past many times since living in Uzes. Admittedly, I always walked on the opposite side of the street. As in most places in town, Geoffrey knew everyone in bar #2. He was greeted with open arms. They eyed me with suspicion. Trying to make my 5’10” self invisible was impossible.Beaujolais Nouveau Day

“OK,” said I to myself: “You’re on this mission for a purpose.” With that, I bellied up to the bar beside the others. The bar keeper pulled out the wine flavor-of-the-day, Beaujolais Nouveau, and served me a glass. In no time, I’d made some new friends. At a table nearby, the young men offered to share the cheese, ham and bread.

When it was time to move on to the last leg of our Beaujolais hop, I was determined to make friends with the “big guy” at the end of the bar. He’s a former rugby player and he lives with his mom. I mean, who would expect the “big guy” in the corner to be a teddy bear?

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #3

Beaujolais Nouveau DayLes Pieton is a cafe/bar I walk past several times a day. Sometime I stop to join people I know for a drink or a meal. This night there was definitely a party going on. The place was packed inside and out. The scene seemed even more crowded because all the other shops and restaurants along the main street had shut down. Even on the night of Beaujolais Nouveau, everything in Uzes is closed by 10 pm.

By this time I was ready to sit down and actually taste the wine. I pulled a bar stool up to a tall table outside and covered my legs with one of the blankets provided for chilly evenings. It is getting cold in Uzes with temperatures in the 40s and 50s farenheit  (I don’t speak French, nor do I know the metric system!)  To me the temperature is pleasant. To the French residents here, it’s really cold. They wear parkas with fur trim and hats. After another bottle of wine was uncorked and new acquaintances were made, I said my farewell to all. The night of Nouveau Beaujolais 2013 was now history.

Perhaps others bring in the end of the wine harvest with fanfare and at great expense. For me, I realize just how lucky I am to be having this simple, strange, new life. What I’m certain of — and learning more everyday — is that life is what we make it; we are all more alike than we are different; and that a spirit of adventure, instead of fear, leads to learning more about ourselves, understanding more about others; and to truly loving one another.

 

Beaujolais Nouveau Day

French foods, fests and customs

Food, Fests and Customs

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s a celebration with no expectations. No one expects cards or gifts, except for the kids who come to your door to Trick or Treat.

French Food, Fests and Customs

Halloween In Uzes there’s very little evidence of the tradition. Only plastic scarecrows, owls and pumpkins in a few shop windows.Some younger children go out in costume to trick or treat, but it’s not over-the-top like in the US.

There is one exception — the salon of my new hairdresser.

The owner, Rosie, loves Halloween. She gets a kick out of decorating her salon with the typical Halloween skeletons and witches. Mostly she enjoys sneaking up with a scary mask and waking clients when they’ve dosed off to sleep. Perhaps wrapping the bright red lights around me when coloring my hair last week was really a trick! 

No one in Rosie’s shop speaks English. So imagine the fun it was trying to explain how to color my hair. After the first visit my head looked like I had on a blonde cap with platinum fringe. When I returned during the week to ask for a “re-do”, I simply explained the problem in sign language and one word of French –” chapeau”. Rosie (pictured on the left) and Sophie the colorist (on the right) understood right away that I didn’t want to look like I had a hat on my head with blonde fringes. It may have taken two visits to get it right, but everything turned out OK.. They took notes for next time.

French Food, Fests and Customs

Saints Day

The proliferation of chrysanthemums around the town’s flower shops are a sign of the celebration of All Saints Day — La Toussaint. It is customary to honor the deceased during church services and at gravesites with bouquets of chrysanthemums. The holiday is widely celebrated with banks and businesses closing.

French Food, Fests and Customs

Florist shop on main street in Uzes

A funny thing on the way to a funeral …

While I’m on the subject of cemeteries,  I have to tell you about my first experience attending a funeral in France. Geoffrey called on Monday morning and asked if I’d like to go along with him to a friend’s funeral. It sounds like a strange request to many of you, but Geoffrey knows I’m interested in all aspect of life in France. Although I had an evening planned with my new friend from the furniture store, I stopped by the shop to tell her we’d get together another time. Funerals might not be easy to find.

The funeral was scheduled for five o’clock in Bagnols, a nearby town. Fortunately we left before three o’clock to make the 45-minute drive. Arriving in Bagnols at the only cathedral in town, we walked around the block looking for the funeral crowd.

No crowd. No funeral. Nothing but an empty sanctuary.

Since Geoffrey’s notice of the funeral was only word-of-mouth, he apologized to me for the mistake, then suggested it might be a grave-side funeral. The deceased was from Ireland and very few people were expected to attend his services. Dressed in our “Sunday-finest” black clothes, we were determined to find the funeral. So we set out to find the cemetery. With no instructions, we drove around town and we found a florist shop. Surely they would know where there was a funeral. Bingo. They directed us to the city burial grounds just in time.

Arriving just as the few mourners were gathering to follow the hearst to the graveside, we joined in silently. The hearst pulled alongside the grave and opened the large back door of the car, exposing a simple oak coffin. Now, it might not surprise you to see a wooden coffin, but I don’t believe that, outside of a movie, I’ve ever seen anyone buried in one. The coffins we use in the States are quite elaborate.

A group of pallbearers lifted the coffin from the hearst using corded ropes and gently placed it on the ground. Learning more about the deceased, I understood the simple ceremony. He had left Ireland and was living quite alone in France. A brilliant architect who had fallen into the wrong path through alcohol addiction, he had lost touch with friends and relatives. At the end a poem by Robert Burns — a Scott — was read by a friend of the deceased — also a Scott.

French Food, Fests and Customs

 

A final toast

Saying “au revoir” to the funeral guests, Geoffrey asked if I would go to his friend’s favorite bar for a final farewell. Still looking for adventure, of course, I said “yes”. The bar was almost as empty as the sanctuary. And the bartender was just as lively as a corpse. Nevertheless, Geoffrey and I clinked our glasses in honor of the solitary man who lived hard and died suddenly, quietly, alone.

French Food, Fests and Customs

Geoffrey, the Little Man

 

French Food, Fests and Customs

On a happier note, fabulous food finds

My passion for Miel de Lavende is getting as uncontrollable as my cravings for chocolate. Now there’s the perfect accompaniment — brie cheese. It’s not the ordinary kind of brie you’d find everywhere. This variety tastes like butter. You can see from the photo that the texture of this brie is different. On a piece of crusty French bread …. well …. Heaven! Notice the cheese and bread never made it to a serving plate. Right out of the shiny white wrapping paper presented to me at the cheese merchant. (More later about Claude.)

French Food, Fests and Customs

A proper cheese storage box

While talking about cheese, I’ll admit I had no idea how to store it properly. Fortunately I overheard an English-speaking person at the market talk about a “cheese box” she pulls out of the refrigerator prior to serving cheeses.

“Hmmm…” says me to myself: “I need a cheese box.”

That’s when I remembered the glass Pyrex container with a red plastic cover  I had purchased to use for baking. Seals tight. Fits well into the refrigerator shelf. It’s perfect for storing the wide collection of cheese I buy to sample each week.

French Food, Fests and Customs

Cooking a chicken

Since most of my shopping is done at the Saturday and Wednesday markets, purchasing meat is straight from the butcher, straight from the farm. Having first time experiences is becoming the norm, yet I must say, buying and preparing a whole chicken was a little testy.

When I purchased it from the market, it looked like a regular chicken. It was not until I got her home and unwrapped the wings and legs that I saw her in all her glory. (Hope you don’t mind the graphic display. Now you know how I felt!)

French Food, Fests and Customs

French market chicken

After I got over the initial shock, I put a cloth over her head and chopped off her head. Then off went those extra “thingys” on the end of her legs. What’s that about, anyway? She ended up making a delicious meal by putting her into my new red Pyrex crockery pot with a little water and spices. Next time I’ll surely be a pro. Maybe I’ll do like the French and use the head to prepare something wonderful.

More market food

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Up until the last two days, it’s been very warm here. It’s much like the weather in the Low Country of South Carolina this time of year. So the Saturday market vendors are still out in full force. That means “take out” food that is served up while you wait.

Last Saturday I treated myself to a hearty helping of Paella. I would venture to say it’s prepared much like you find it in Spain, Big unshelled shrimp with mussels and chicken pieces bask in a scrumptious bed of saffron rice and spices. C’est bon!

Next: Views of the neighborhood

Stay tuned

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